Operation Thunder set to shake Baghdad

Baghdad - Iraq's government has said it is to deploy 40 000 Iraqi soldiers here in a crackdown on insurgents who have claimed the lives of hundreds of people since the new cabinet was formed this month.

The dramatic rise in violence, carried out mainly by Sunni Arab insurgents, has sown fears that the country could slide towards civil war if the Shi'a-led government does not restore stability soon.

The crackdown, Operation Thunder, would be unprecedented in size and scope, Defence Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi said. It would focus on the capital before being extended to other parts of the country. Dulaimi did not say when it would begin.

"These operations will aim to turn the government's role from defensive to offensive," Iraq's Interior Minister Bayan Jabor said.

Meanwhile, attacks persisted nationwide, with at least 13 people dying in bomb blasts and shootings.

The crackdown is the first major security action undertaken by the new government and comes as US forces continue their security sweep in the lawless Anbar province in western Iraq.

The addition of 40 000 Iraqis to the estimated 10 000 US troops who are serving in the capital would create a huge force.

"We shall not leave any place for terrorists or those who shelter them and incite terrorism in Iraq," Dulaimi said.

"We will stand against all those who try to shed Iraqi blood... We will implement the law with everything we've got."

Troops would be drawn from interior and defence ministry resources, Dulaimi said. more than 600 checkpoints would be set up here. - Reuters

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